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Author Topic: dissertators and thesis writers support thread  (Read 749447 times)
grad_geek
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« on: January 10, 2007, 6:42:22 PM »

Dolljepopp and some others suggested a dissertation writers support thread to help get us past our procrastination.  I am working on an MA thesis right now, but I could definitely use the virtual support group, so I'll start.

I collected data at the end of last semester that might be junk.  I might have to scrap it and start over, but while I wait for a meeting with my adviser I want to get a decent draft of my thesis written anyway.  That way, if things aren't as bad as I fear, I will have made progress before classes start again.  As you can well imagine, motivation is hard to muster under the current circumstances!

So, my goal for the next week is to do the best analysis I can and have a complete rough draft of my thesis written.  I will come back next week either to boast of my accomplishments or to confess my sins.

What are your goals, and what's standing in your way?
« Last Edit: January 10, 2007, 6:43:24 PM by grad_geek » Logged
epistephiliac
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2007, 7:46:22 PM »

I just sent the first draft (of what I'm sure will be several) of my five-page dissertation abstract to my advisor. Once it's in good shape, I'll approach the other faculty members I hope to have on my committee. I'm very anxious to start working on my proposal and studying for comps, and so I want to get this bureaucratic stage of the process over with as soon as possible. I know that I will get good feedback and that my abstract (and project) will be much improved as a result, but I wish I didn't have to wait until next week.

My biggest challenges this semester are going to be managing the other projects I have going on in addition to my dissertation proposal: a book chapter, a conference paper, and revisions to a book manuscript. Plus, although I'm officially finished with coursework, I'm taking a class that directly relates to the diss. Oh, and also working as both TA and research assistant.

Okay, so there's a lot standing in my way! Here's hoping it's not too much...
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sirrah
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2007, 8:42:46 PM »

First of all, I love the term "dissertator" it makes me feel like some kind of superhero-I am The Dissertator.  Currently I am working on revisions from my dissertation proposal.  I really need a kick in the butt.  I just feel so overwhelmed.  Some of the revisions are pretty straightforward (state research questions earlier, add this cite, etc.) others are going to take more work and I'm just getting overwhelmed.  It doesn't help that my university has decided to move up the deadlines so I have about 10 days shaved off my time to get the work done.  Well, I better get to work.  How about people post and say what all work they get done each day? 
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epistephiliac
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2007, 8:48:29 PM »

For those who aren't familiar with it already, I'd like to heartily recommend PhinisheD: it's a terrific resource for us dissertators (superheroes, hee!). There are fora for setting and meeting goals, about the ins and outs of grad school, and a ton of useful links to books, software, and other tools.

I was a regular when I wrote my master's thesis, and now I'm back again for the big D. I especially find it useful for day-to-day goals; I like being accountable to someone else for more than just the big deadlines.
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tamiam
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2007, 8:58:23 PM »

I suppose I'm at a very early stage of dissertating.
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trystero49
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« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2007, 1:51:31 AM »

I'm about halfway through writing a lit-crit dissertation; I need to clean up a mess in chapter 3 and turn it in (was due before break, now it's back) and write two more chapters. I also need to rewrite an article that got rejected and cull another article from the chapter I'm currently working (after turning it in) on to send out for publication. What's holding me back is that I revise very slowly and can't get more than a couple hours of focus on intensive revising. That said, I may continue posting my to do list over on the "Paralysis Analysis" thread instead of here.

FYI, for those of you who are science people, the whole research and writing process is very different in the humanities, so don't compare across disciplines (for example, I might be able to pound out a 20 or 30 page essay draft in a week of hard work, but not anything big like a thesis or diss as the OP plans). Humanities scholars also, obviously, don't run experiments and then write them up, so we tend to do research chapter by chapter. (We don't usually do collaborative work either. Or publish oodles of stuff while still in grad school.)

Ok, enough blathering ---- what tricks have people found for breaking up a large project (The Thesis, The Diss) into small managable chunks and scheduling them?
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shamu
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« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2007, 9:33:36 AM »

I am assuming that you have your lit review and method already written. If you don't I would suggest writing those up ASAP. If you already have those written up, there is not much you can do now but analyze the data and try to be productive in other areas (take a break from you project and try to refocus and gain perspective).

Back to the original point, if you do not have the lit review and the method completed, doing those will definitely help you gain a better perspective on your existing data and how to move on. If I recall it correctly, for both my master's and PhD theses I had to have my lit review and method written up before the core data were collected (naturally, I had some pilot beforehand, but that's another matter). My committees would not have allowed me to get to the thesis & dissertation stage without a solid proposal (that included the lit review and the method at least).
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grad_geek
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« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2007, 10:06:36 AM »

Just to clarify the confusion I caused with my vague post: yes, I wrote a fairly extensive proposal with lit review, so I am not starting with a blank page and expecting to write a draft of my thesis in a week!  What I hope to do this week is:

1. Update the methods section DONE!
2. Write a draft of the conclusion/implications section
3. Add to the lit review based on some suggestions from a committee member.

To answer Trystero49's question, I'm not always good at scheduling tasks and doing things in a certain order.  The key for me, I think, is that whatever chunk I work on, I need to push myself to write the sh**ty first draft (to quote Anne Lammot), and not let myself get blocked by trying to get one phrase or one paragraph just right.

I think Trystero49's point about the different processes in different fields is important.  For me the design and execution of the experiment was the biggest chunk of work, and writing it up is a completely separate process that should be a bit more straigth-forward.  In the humanities the writing and research are more connected.
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kismet227
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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2007, 11:39:20 AM »

I just turned in my revised proposal to my advisors. I'm really hoping to get the green light for it to go to my committee.

Who else has to orally defend their proposal?
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epistephiliac
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« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2007, 12:02:45 PM »

Who else has to orally defend their proposal?

I will have to do an oral defense, when I get to that stage (I'm shooting for April). The last few students who've defended have had a rough time, so I hope I don't run into too much trouble.

When is your defense?
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kismet227
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« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2007, 1:53:00 PM »

Hopefully sometime in the next month.  Our proposal defense is different than our oral comps (passed in August) so I think it is less formal.

Folks on this forum--do you ever daydream about graduation?
I looked up grad procedures the other day and I was almost drooling I was so anxious. I know it's far away, but one has to have hope.
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not_a_gradstudent1
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« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2007, 6:17:29 PM »

what tricks have people found for breaking up a large project (The Thesis, The Diss) into small managable chunks and scheduling them?
I've found it helps to work on each section of a chapter (usually about 6 per chapter, including the intro and conclusion) in a separate word document. Also, once I have a big chunk of text down (say, one section), I make to-do lists with very small tasks - each sentence or footnote that needs fixing or filling in gets its own bullet point on the list. In both cases, I can schedule more realistically when I'm thinking in terms of 5-10 page units or single sentences than whole chapters.
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grasshopper
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« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2007, 10:51:30 PM »

I am so far ahead of the game, I've run full circle and am now kissing my own butt.

This is why I'm on this forum, instead of actually doing work.

ack.

Folks on this forum--do you ever daydream about graduation?
I looked up grad procedures the other day and I was almost drooling I was so anxious. I know it's far away, but one has to have hope.

Sort of.

I admit that I have spent time trying to figure out how to get out of the entire ceremony.

At my Masters ceremony, I went up on stage, got the diploma, and when I left the stage, I ran off into the wings instead of going back to my seat. See, I had prearranged it with my family, that if they saw me slinking off, to meet me in the lobby in five minutes. 

My journey to the lobby was quite an adventure. Two ushers tried to stop me - I told both of them that I had to pee. One followed me to the bathroom, but thankfully didn't wait outside the door, so I could sneak out of there pretty easily. I also had to jump not one, but two velvet rope barriers, AND one of those wooden road barriers. But I made it.

The problem is that the PhD graduates don't leave the stage and go back to their seats. Nope. There are Special PhD Seats set up on stage. I don't know how I'm going to manage that one.
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tamiam
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« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2007, 11:21:33 PM »

I'm considering dropping out just so that I can avoid going to graduation ceremonies year after year.

Yeah, that's it. It's not because of the overwhelming-ness of the diss and the economics-induced narcolepsy.
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trystero49
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« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2007, 1:05:37 AM »

How could you people not love graduation? (I mean, bring a phone so you can text each other throughout the whole damn boring thing, but otherwise...)

You get to be the center of attention (and when do you get positive attention and accolades as a grad student?), people want to take their pictures with you ---- and best of all, you get to wear a silly hat! Maybe not quite as good as a tiara, or a propeller-beanie-hat, but pretty close!

I can't wait; I've been going to other peoples' graduations for years --- always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Unfortunately, right now everyone is in disagreement over when is the best time for me to finish up and file. If only forum postings counted towards my diss length!
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